Five to Watch: Chargers vs. Colts

RB Darren Sproles (Donald Miralle/Getty)

The San Diego Chargers will meet the Indianapolis Colts for the sixth time in the last five seasons, this time for a playoff showdown at Qualcomm Stadium. Samantha Fillerup profiles five players to watch as the Bolts attempt to repeat last season's playoff performance.

1. RB Darren Sproles has been a thorn in the Colts' side in each of their last three meetings. With LaDainian Tomlinson suffering from a strained groin, Sproles will be asked to harass the Colts once again.

In his last three games against the Colts, Sproles has three carries for 22 yards; three receptions for 69 yards and a TD; 12 kickoff returns for 319 yards (26.6 avg) and a TD; and two punt returns for 49 yards and a TD.

Last week's game against the Denver Broncos was a preview of what Sproles can do when given the opportunities, as he had 14 carries for 115 yards and a score, along with two receptions for 17 yards and a score.

2. OT Jeromey Clary will be responsible for protecting QB Philip Rivers from Pro Bowl DE Robert Mathis and making sure Rivers has time to find holes in Indy's zone defense. Rivers has been sacked 25 times this season, including three times in the last two games.

In the first meeting, Mathis beat Clary off the edge for two sacks and a forced fumble that was recovered by the Colts. Mathis has 11.5 sacks this season and will be looking to add to that number against Clary.


LB Stephen Cooper
Harry How/Getty

3. LB Stephen Cooper will call the defense and go audible for audible with Peyton Manning. He must ensure the defense lines up correctly and control the action down the center of the field. Cooper comes in on a hot streak and leads all linebackers with four picks, all of which came in the last four games.

To add to his list of responsibilities, Cooper will be called on to blitz occasionally to corrupt Manning's pocket. Manning has been sacked just twice in the last three games and hasn't thrown an interception since Week 13 versus the Cleveland Browns.

4. LB Matt Wilhelm will play in place of Tim Dobbins as the Bolts will utilize their nickel package almost exclusively. Wilhelm must keep his head on a swivel as he has to be on the lookout for RB Joseph Addai.

Addai is a threat as a runner and receiver, as he averages nearly four catches per game over the last two years. He showed how dangerous he can be last week against the Tennessee Titans when he caught a 55-yard over-the-shoulder TD.

5. SS Clinton Hart is still bothered by a shoulder/neck injury, so the Bolts hope to avoid leaving him in one-on-one coverage situations against TE Dallas Clark. However, when those situations arise, Hart will have to find ways to make a play. Hart has yet to intercept a pass this season after picking off five in 2007.

Clark has been a threat early and often this season with 77 receptions for 848 yards and six touchdowns. The Chargers have struggled mightily against opposing tight ends all season long, and Clark is one of the best.

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